22 Мая 2015 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 709

18 May 2015


Two suspects in 2001 Vladimir Kirsanov murder case identified after Kurgan Region governor’s resignation: A coincidence?

Vladimir Kirsanov, chief editor of the independent newspaper Kurganskiye Vesti, went missing one morning in May 2001 while driving his car to his office in Kurgan.

Police discovered stains of blood both in his garage and in the car that was found parked not far from the newspaper office, and several days later, they fished out the editor’s documents from the local river. The prosecutor’s office started homicide proceedings under Criminal Code Article 105.

In response to a September 2001 inquiry about progress in the investigation of that criminal case, the prosecutors said they were focused on a version linking the crime with Kirsanov’s professional work as a journalist; that an operative investigative group had been set up, involving officials of the regional police department, special police task force against organised crime, and regional FSB department, with the regional prosecutor personally overseeing the investigation.

And in January 2002, the Prosecutor General’s Office [PGO], replying to a GDF inquiry about the Kirsanov case, said: “The case proceedings were suspended on 9 November 2001 in view of no suspect identified… On January 10, the Kurgan Region prosecutor’s office resumed the proceedings to check the facts highlighted in your appeal. The results of the investigation have been taken under [PGO] oversight.”

Yet no further progress in the investigation has been reported since – possibly because Vladimir Kirsanov used to be one of the most active critics of the regional governor, Oleg Bogomolov, and even wrote a book, “Simply Oleg”, which in the author’s view might have put an end to the governor’s career. Kirsanov had not had the time, though, to publish the book before his disappearance.

Now, 14 years after, the investigators suddenly got on the tracks of the suspected killers and managed to identify them, Znak.com reported, as two local gangsters one of whom is already serving a prison term for other crimes, including murders, and the other was detained only a short time ago.

It so happened that the detention took place already after Governor Bogomolov’s resignation. If this is just a coincidence is not clear, but life shows that local government reshuffles elsewhere in Russia often have boosted the investigation of crimes against journalists and sometimes have produced unexpected results.

The Glasnost Defence Foundation will closely follow the developments in Kurgan.


Municipal newspaper’s office in Novosibirsk Region smeared with insulting graffiti

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

During the May holiday decade in Berdsk, Novosibirk Region, some unknown individuals evidently brimming with “a feeling of patriotism”, daubed “U.S. agent!” and “Fifth column!” in black paint on the office walls of the independent newspaper Kuryer-Sreda-Berdsk.

Staffers video-recorded the insulting graffiti and attached the footage to their report to the police. Chief Editor Galina Komornikova wrote in Facebook that she did not “expect the evildoers to be found, ever”: in her view, they might be close to the city administration which “for half a year already, has been whipping up an atmosphere of intolerance and searching for some western secret service agents not only among journalists but also among ordinary local activists”.

The media outlet’s relations with the city authorities, never warm as they are, grew particularly tense after the newspaper recently posted on its website a note announcing a campaign to gather signatures to an appeal for Acting Mayor Andrei Mikhailov’s resignation. The campaign was launched after the city manager called for cancelling in the Novosibirsk Region direct elections of heads of municipal administrations, “through which pro-western agents may change the political situation in the country and overthrow its top leadership”.

It may well be that the unidentified individuals who defiled the independent newspaper’s office share the mayor’s views. Komornikova did not rule out, though, that the act of vandalism might be traced back to Orthodox Church activists “who have harassed the newspaper in social networks”.

The regional police department’s press office could not say whether or not criminal proceedings had been started in the wake of a preliminary check-up. “We know a procedural decision has been taken but we don’t know what particular decision it is,” a police press spokesman said. Evidently, the relevant information is deemed to be classified.

Newspaper Ogni Kubani in Krasnodar Region fined half a million roubles for offence it never committed

By Galina Tashmatova, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

A campaign is gaining momentum of privatising district and municipal newspapers that until recently belonged to the Periodika Kubani media holding privatised early this year. The way journalists look at it, the campaign initiators’ main goal is to eject the newsrooms from their rented premises – buildings historically located in city centres. As is known, land under newspaper offices, especially on the Black Sea coast, is of great commercial value today. For media, the process in a priori non-remunerative and, as it turns out, fairly risky.

For example, the newspaper Ogni Kubani (based in the city of Kropotkin) shared its office building with a printing firm that belonged to the regional administration’s Property Committee. To avoid dividing the building floor by floor, a decision was taken to unite the newsroom with the printing house under the newspaper’s auspices. The merger into a single legal entity took place, but shortly afterward the Ogni Kubani management, as the legal successor to the printing firm, found itself facing a legal claim. As it turned out, even before the merger, law enforcers had caught the printing house using counterfeit software, and had brought copyright violation charges against it. The authorised representative of the software owner was willy-nilly obliged to file a legal claim against the newspaper which had accepted the printing firm as its constituent part. The regional arbitration court required Ogni to pay the plaintiff half a million roubles in damages it had never inflicted.

The situation is further aggravated by the fact that the modest municipal newspaper has never had so large an amount on its bank account even after a successful subscription campaign. Although Ogni intends to challenge the decision before a higher-standing arbitration court, defence lawyers say its chances to win the case are slim. De jure, the journalists took upon themselves the successor obligations voluntarily. De facto, they only got an antiquated printing machine that the print-shop workers had long since stopped using, and the court order to pay the 500,000-rouble compensation.

Regional MPs in Kostroma lift discriminatory restrictions on journalists covering elections (Central Russia)

By Aleksandr Borisov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

Deputies of the Kostroma Region Duma have upheld a draft law (proposed by the prosecutors) on amending the regional Electoral Code which used to restrict the rights of journalists covering elections and referendums in the region.

The initiative was advanced in the wake of a prosecutorial check-up carried out in connection with a complaint filed by election observers. Local reporters who came to watch the process of elections in the Kostromskoi district encountered electoral committee members who demanded from them documents in addition to their press cards.

“In line with federal legislation, the press card is the main identification document for the media workers,” a prosecutor’s office spokesman explained. “Federal law does not require media representatives to present any other documents to prove their professional status. Yet regional legislation established additional requirements… that were at odds with federal law.”

Earlier, journalists in the Kostroma Region were required to show, in addition to the press card, a paper signed by the chief editor, indicating the holder’s name, press card number and the numbers of the territorial electoral committees where he or she was assigned to cover the election process.

As a result of the voting, the regional MPs adopted – by the majority vote with one abstention – the final wording of the law lifting those restrictions on journalists. During the regional Duma elections scheduled for 13 September, reporters will not have to present anything but their press cards at polling station entrances.

Court in Maritime Region rejects district leader’s 1.1-million-ruble moral damage claim against newspaper

By Anna Seleznyova, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

In a nearly 12-month trial just over in Vladivostok, Shkotovsky district head Viktor Mikhailov sued the newspaper Arsenyevskiye Vesti and its author Marina Zavadskaya for what he thought to be an “insulting and smearing” publication that was “damaging” to his honour and dignity.

The plaintiff took upon himself the burden of proving the fact of “offence” committed by the defendant by simply showing the court the newspaper issue featuring the disputed article illustrated with his photo portrait. In his statement of claim, he specified which particular phrases sounded offensive to him, while the defendants – the publication’s author and her defence lawyer – insisted that the information they had published was true to fact, which was finally acknowledged by both Mikhailov and his lawyer. In the process though, the latter two resolutely refused to confess to bribe-taking, with the district leader insisting he had never “asked for any money”.

The topic of, and the details featured in, the publication were serious and convincing. It was all about land plots allotted by the district administration for geological prospecting purposes allegedly not to those who wanted that land but to individuals who were on friendly terms with the district head. “This assertion is damaging to my business reputation,” Mikhailov said. “The text of the publication hints at my absolutely negative behaviour; the heading puzzles the reader and makes him want to read the details; and the article’s posting in the internet triggered broad public debates over the facts it stated.”

He demanded 1.1 million roubles in moral damages, but Judge Natalya Yelagina of the Frunzensky district court of Vladivostok turned his claim down, finding the article’s content non-insulting. Moreover, she stated: “The court believes that the boundaries of acceptable criticism in respect of a government official performing his public duties may be broader than in respect of a private individual, since the former inevitably and deliberately opens himself to close scrutiny… from journalists and society at large; therefore, he must show a greater degree of tolerance.”

Prosecutor’s office in Karelia starts administrative proceedings against chat forum commentator who insulted journalist

By Anatoly Tsygankov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

The prosecutors in the Kalevala District of Karelia have started administrative proceedings against a chat forum visitor who insulted a reporter for the newspaper Severnyye Berega.

Unfortunately, chat forum debates in social networks often take an offensive turn, and participants easily start to insult each other never minding the language they use. It is following this line that polemics among NGO Civil Initiative participants unfolded online in the VKontakte social network; Severnyye Berega reporter Andrei Tuomi was among the chat forum visitors.

Another forum participant, recalling his former years of friendship with the journalist and his helping him to get a job, wrote that he regretted having ever done so. The reason is that word went around social networks that Tuomi allegedly had drawn a swastika somewhere at some time in the past, for which his ex-friend now called him “a fascist” and a “louse”, writing this in the chat forum.

Taking this as a public insult and a lie, Tuomi decided to seek justice in court. He filed a legal claim demanding 100,000 roubles in moral damages from the offender, substantiating his claim with detailed reference to effective legislation and existing thesauruses.

This public correspondence, which was accessible online to a broad range of chat forum visitors, became the subject of a prosecutorial check-up, in the wake of which the Kalevala district prosecutor’s office started administrative proceedings that likely will end in a fine for the man who insulted Tuomi.

Karelia social networks as a source of information and a threat to journalists

By Anatoly Tsygankov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

Karelia’s prosecutor’s office has started administrative proceedings against Yevgeny Belyanchikov, chief editor of the TVR-Life news website, based on a complaint filed by a man who thought that the site grossly intruded into his family life by publicly reporting about the tragic death of his son. The author of the report, without asking the victim family’s consent, described the circumstances of the young man’s death attaching his photo portrait that was found in a social network. The prosecutors agreed that the publication did affect the feelings of the insulted parents and that the journalists’ intrusion in their private life constituted a breach of the Personal Data law.

The defendants argued that they had copied the photo from the victim’s personal page in the VKontakte network, which means the young man had voluntarily posted it for everyone to see when he still was alive. Citing the same Personal Data law, they noted that citizens’ private information may be used if a journalist needs it for professional purposes and if this does not infringe the lawful interests of the information owner (personal data subject). In the case under consideration, both conditions were observed: the author needed the information to fulfil an editorial assignment, and by copying the victim’s photo he did not infringe the owner’s interests because the deceased young man had not restricted public access to the photo during his lifetime.

The prosecutors disagreed, saying that while the victim, when still alive, had shared information about his life voluntarily, disclosing it after his death was only possible with the consent of his family members as successors to all of his rights. A magistrate court upheld the prosecutors’ position, returning a “guilty” verdict for TVR-Life represented by its chief editor, Mr Belyanchikov.

The latter challenged the ruling before the City Court of Petrozavodsk. The website most likely would have lost the case, but fortunately for it, the city court closed the proceedings in view of the period of limitation of the editor’s administrative liability in the case.

Although the dispute remains unsettled, media staffs should anyway approach these kinds of situations more prudently and take double care when borrowing personal data from social networks.

Publication about radioactive furniture in Kursk Region gives rise to legal claim

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The Kursk Region Court of Arbitration on 6 May held a regular hearing of an honour-and-dignity protection claim lodged by entrepreneur Klavdiya Tolstykh against Zheleznogorsk resident Nina Kurnosikova and ZAO Golos Zheleznogorska, publisher of the newspaper Ekho Nedeli.

In February, the newspaper carried an article entitled “Poisonous Furniture Harms Family”, which reported that experts found a source of increased gamma-ray emission in a furniture set Kurnosikova had purchased at Tolsykh’s private shop. The woman believes that her own and her daughter’s health has deteriorated, and her husband has died, because of this radioactive irradiation. Some time ago she filed a legal claim with a magistrate court that awarded her 60,000 roubles in damages from Tolstykh.

The newspaper article was published after the court decision had come into full legal force, but Tolstykh lodged a counterclaim describing the publication as “untrue and smearing”, demanding that the article be removed from Ekho Nedeli’s website, a disclaimer be published, and half a million roubles be paid to her collectively by the defendants in moral damages.

The hearings have been postponed till May.


Participation in creative contests seen as instrument of economic pressure on Stavropol Region media

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

The Stavropol authorities resort to a variety of methods and means to keep a firm reign on the independent press. Now that the country is crisis-stricken, they especially favour economic leverage.

Journalists of the regional newspaper Otkrytaya Gazeta have asked the United People’s Front (ONF)’s Journalists’ Legal Support Centre to assess the regional government’s performance as regards spending budgetary funds and maintaining relations with the media.

On the eve of Victory Day (marked on 9 May), the regional administration organised a creative contest for the best media project dedicated to the great victory over Nazism. The package of application documents included a contract form containing a tricky provision: the applicant was required to present to the organisers (i.e., to the regional government) “agreements with distributors, etc.”

If a newspaper, such as Otkrytaya, is distributed by subscription, it finds itself faced with a need to disclose information about its collective subscribers.

“Isn’t this requirement a breach of the Commercial Secrets law, and how is it related to the very essence of a creative competition?” the newspaper wondered.

And it does have reasons to worry: in the past, too, it repeatedly applied for support from the regional budget, presenting similar information to competition organisers. It never won any grant, while getting its corporate subscribers in bad. The authorities, meanwhile, received effective leverage to put pressure on the recalcitrant newspaper – actually the sole media outlet continuing to resist corruption in the region. After an “earnest talk” with regional bosses, company CEOs were compelled to terminate further subscriptions to Otkrytaya. Circulations fell, and so did the newspaper’s incomes. At least on two occasions, the media outlet found itself on the verge of closure.

As the saying goes, it has felt on its own skin that applying for participation in any creative competition in the Stavropol Region is economically dangerous.

It was not accidental that the journalists turned to the ONF Centre for help: a whole two Otkrytaya staffers – Lyudmila Leontyeva and Yelena Suslova – came out as winners in this year’s ONF-organised Truth and Justice Competition. The first won in the “Communal Services”, the second in the “Human Rights” nomination.

This digest was prepared by the Glasnost Defence Foundation in Moscow. The digest has been issued once a week, on Mondays, since August 11, 2000.

We acknowledge the assistance of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

Currently it is distributed by e-mail to 1,600 subscribers in and outside Russia.

Editorial board

  • Editor-in-chief, Alexei Simonov
  • Boris Timoshenko, Head of Monitring Service;
  • Svetlana Zemskova, GDF Lawyer;
  • Vsevolod Shelkhovskoy, translator.

We welcome the promotion of our news items and articles but if you make use of any information from this digest or other GDF materials please acknowledge the source.


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ФЗГ продолжает бороться за свое честное имя. Пройдя все необходимые инстанции отечественного правосудия, Фонд обратился в Европейский суд. Для обращения понадобилось вкратце оценить все, что Фонд сделал за 25 лет своего существования. Вот что у нас получилось:
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